Thursday, 18 August 2011

We are not normal

I was always confused on who I was when I was a little girl.  In fact, I believe most of Indonesian Chinese were, growing up in a place where they felt like they were second class citizens all the time.  Our homes were never homes to us.  Our ancestors were immigrants who came to Indonesia to seek better living.

I never thought that I really belong to "one particular group".

In Indonesia, the country I love dearly, the place I was born and grew up... I am not really considered the true blue Indonesian.  I am a "tionghoa", a term Indonesians use to call Indonesian Chinese. Indonesian Chinese is never considered as one of the ethnic groups.  I am not a "pribumi" (a term for the real Indonesian).

If I were to go to China and live there... The Chinese will also never consider me as one of them.  For them, I am "Ing Nie Hua Chiao" which is a term for Chinese who are not originally from China, but from Indonesia.  The fact that I don't speak Mandarin (or any other dialects) and I don't eat monkey brain even confirm that I can't be the real Chinese.

So, I really don't belong in either country.  I never feel that I have equal rights with the "real citizens" of any country.

Fortunately someone invented the word "globalization" which made me feel that I am a real true blue citizen.. Not of a particular country, but as the citizen of the earth.

But how can I explain this globalization to my daughters?  When Amber, my eldest daughter was 4 years old, she had already felt that she was different, she didn't belong to any particulart group. 

One day, coming back from school, she looked so sad and asked me,"Mommy, what am I?"

I was taken back.. At that time I really didn't know what to answer. It came as a total surprise to have a 4-year old ask me that question.

She said that in school, her friends told her that she was not a Malay because she had Chinese mother.  But her Chinese friends also told her that she was not Chinese because her father is Malay and she is a Muslim.  Poor little girl.... at such a young age, she had to choose to be in a group where she would always be different from the rest of the group members.

I told her that she is not really Malay and not really Chinese, she is just special.  A 4-year old didn't really understand what special was... She said,"I don't want to be special, I just want to be normal"

My heart ached when she said that.  That's exactly the feeling that I had always wanted to feel... To be normal.

Since I can't afford to send my daughters to international schools, the least I can do for them is to expose them to kids from mixed race marriages.  I am sure some kids with parents of different races also feel the same way as my daughters. I remember one day, Amber and Nadine told me two of their friends were exactly like them, they have Chinese mothers and Malay fathers.  They were so happy at that time, finding out that they are not that "weird".

I have accepted the fact that I can't never be a normal citizen.. I learn to embrace the fact that I am special.

I hope my daughters will soon feel the same way.  In today's world, normal is boring.... Everybody wants to be special... I hope they will realize it soon.


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